What did Chiraq say about a veto on war?

He was, in fact, say­ing that no mat­ter which of two hypo­thet­i­cal out­comes of a vote on the sec­ond Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil ‘ulti­ma­tum’ might occur, France did not at that time accept that an ulti­ma­tum was nec­es­sary.

QUESTION — The Amer­i­cans are say­ing the oppo­site. Col­in Pow­ell thinks he will get [nine votes need­ed for a major­i­ty on the Secu­ri­ty Council] 

THE PRESIDENT — I’m telling you what I feel. I firm­ly believe, this evening, that there isn’t a major­i­ty of nine votes in favour of that res­o­lu­tion includ­ing an ulti­ma­tum and thus giv­ing the inter­na­tion­al green light to war. 

QUESTION — In oth­er words, France wouldn’t need to use her veto? 

THE PRESIDENT — In this sce­nario, that’s exact­ly right. In this sce­nario, France will, of course, take a stand. There will be nations who will vote no, includ­ing France. Some will abstain. But, in any case, there won’t, in this sce­nario, be a major­i­ty. So there won’t be a veto problem. 

QUESTION — And if the oppo­site happens? 

THE PRESIDENT — Then, the sec­ond sce­nario: what I believe this evening to be the views of a num­ber of peo­ple change. If this hap­pens, there may indeed be a major­i­ty of nine votes or more in favour of the new res­o­lu­tion, the one autho­riz­ing war, to put things sim­ply. If that hap­pens, France will vote no. But there is one pos­si­bil­i­ty, what’s called exer­cis­ing a veto, it’s when one of the five per­ma­nent mem­bers — the Unit­ed States, Britain, Rus­sia, Chi­na and France — votes no, and then even if there is a major­i­ty in favour of it, the res­o­lu­tion isn’t adopt­ed. That’s what’s called exer­cis­ing a veto. 

QUESTION — And, this evening, this is your posi­tion in principle? 

THE PRESIDENT — My posi­tion is that, regard­less of the cir­cum­stances, France will vote no because she con­sid­ers this evening {empha­sis added} that there are no grounds for wag­ing war in order to achieve the goal we have set our­selves, i.e. to dis­arm Iraq

QUESTION — So, exer­cis­ing this veto — in fact, some peo­ple call the veto the diplo­mat­ic atom bomb —, some peo­ple, includ­ing some mem­bers of the gov­ern­ing par­ty, have said this would be fir­ing a bul­let in our allies’ back… 

THE PRESIDENT — Don’t let your­self by influ­enced by polemics. I repeat: war is always the worst solu­tion. And France which isn’t a paci­fist coun­try, who doesn’t refuse war on prin­ci­ple, who is in fact prov­ing this by cur­rent­ly being the lead­ing con­trib­u­tor of troops to NATO, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the Balka­ns, France isn’t a paci­fist coun­try. France con­sid­ers that war is the final stage of a process, that all pos­si­ble means must be used to avoid it because of its trag­ic consequences. (…) 

Extract from an inter­view with Jacques Chirac on French nation­al tele­vi­sion, 10 March, 2003.

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